Who gives a RATs? Taking safety to the next level

Foodie trends, business predictions and actionable advice on what restaurateurs should be thinking about over the next 12 months

By Joyce DiMascio

Organisers with events coming up or planned later in the year are trying to navigate how to make their events safer and instil a greater level of confidence about their ability to eliminate as many COVID risks as possible.

While organisers, venues and suppliers have demonstrated a true commitment to operating with solid COVID-safe practices the issue of whether to add an extra layer of screening through the use of rapid antigen tests (RATs) is on everyone’s mind.

The challenge according to health and safety experts is RAT supply and access to medical staff.

micenet spoke to a range of companies specialised in workplace safety to understand the latest and which companies may be able to guide the industry through the constantly changing landscape.

Over the coming week we’ll share with you the views of a number of specialists working in this field.

In today’s issue we bring you the comments of AFS Group, the company which successfully ran the security, health and safety protocols for the new Sydney summer event, ELEVATE Sydney which ran during the peak of the Omicron outbreak in New South Wales in early January.

CEO Matthew Harrison said his company was engaged by AGB Events and it administered around four thousand RATs on all staff, crew, suppliers and talent working at the event.

He said that when looking for suppliers, companies should include key things in their specification brief. He answered a series of questions which will help readers navigate the world of rapid antigen tests for events.

Q. What should companies put in their brief when looking for a supplier that can deliver safety programs that include RATs?

A. The brief should request:

  • Comprehensive links and access to descriptions of legislation, government/TGA portals. (The rules are evolving almost daily) This means you won’t need to continuously update your information.
  • Supplier credentials, certification, experience and capacity to provide a viable and compliant product and service
  • Participant or partner testimonials providing support of the program provider (eg:AFS Group) and their trainers
  • A professional commitment to reliability of and accountability for the information being provided in the brief and the programs attached.

Q. What are the must dos if offering the RATs onsite?

A. You must adhere to the standard operating procedures for the provision of rapid antigen screening for COVID-19 in clinical and non-clinical settings as provided by Department of Health.

There are comprehensive guidelines available through the Australian Government. There are specific guidelines provided by the sponsors of the RATs that maintain the efficacy of the tests.

Q. What are the must-dos if accepting at-home tests – how do you track and trace? And what about bona fide results?

It’s important to source a RAT that has acceptable and TGA approved tracking software. The appropriate product will provide a QR code to an app which walks the participant through how to conduct the test after inputting personal details.

It is time controlled very specifically through the app and details of the result are recorded through photograph images with the results being immediately available to the test subject’s employer and Services NSW.

The data should also be stored as safe medical data through the approved app.

Q. How should the RAT testing area be set up?

A. A clinically controlled environment that has the space, entrance and egress required to maintain social distancing and max numbers advice.

The obligatory PPE through face masks, clinical gloves, visors, disposable biohazard suits and hairnets. Sanitiser, C-19 cleaning products and a cleaning and sanitising schedule.

It is important to have all of this documented and make it an integrated part of your overall management plan to ensure cohesion.

Q. Do you need trained medical staff?

A. Yes, it is a requirement to have a medically trained staff member available to supervise point-of-care test events.

Paramedics, nurses and of course doctors are compliant in this regard. Having trained and confident people to assist with the testing is imperative to not only ensure the continuity of the testing but to also instil confidence in the people being tested.

Q. Is there a supply of RATs coming any time soon?

A. In the overall scheme of things, very soon. Late February has been provided as an estimated timeframe from a reliable source, however, committing to an exact time and date at this stage is highly ill-advised.

Q. Contractually, should organisers or venues take responsibility?

A. I would recommend a collaborative approach and work with your client as much as possible. This situation is one the most difficult ones I have seen in over 30 years in business in terms of guaranteeing any fixed results.

This is a constantly evolving situation and making commitments you have no control over, specifically the supply of RATs, could be catastrophic for your business.

Q. Anything else to note?

A. This is a continuously changing environment for us as business owners as well as our clients. No one has all the answers and even the answers we do have could be invalid tomorrow.

It is now more important than ever to support each other and work together to get events back up and running. We just need to do it safely and follow compliance regulations.